Netgear has an extensive range of Powerline products with lowly speeds of 14Mbps at the low end and 200Mbps HomePlug AV at the top end.
You can extend the Powerline network with Netgear adapters that sport 802.11g wireless, so Netgear's choice for this review was very interesting.
Sharing out your Ethernet
The XEB1004 adapters support 85Mbps HomePlug 1.0, rather than the faster HomePlug AV standard, but they have a novel feature, as each adapter has four Ethernet ports.
This sounds like a ﬁne idea, in principle, as you can use HomePlug to extend your network around a tricky wall or connect computers on different ﬂoors, with the bonus that you can connect as many as four PCs to the far end of the network. This may sound appealing if you're feeding Broadband to the kids' bedrooms, for example, but it's bound to cause a certain amount of mess when you string Ethernet cable from a single plug point.
Netgear charges a low price for a pair of these adapters, but you will need to factor in the cost of Ethernet cable, as you only get two 1.5-metre pieces in the package.
The nominal bandwidth of 85Mbps equates to a realistic 15–20Mbps, which outstrips any internet connection for a single user, but you may well see your connection speed degraded when multiple users are connected.
During installation the software checked for updates and found the CD was up to date.
We found the PowerLine Encryption Utility to be a handy piece of software that allows you to enable encryption as well as see the status of your connections. It has a bar chart that shows line quality similar to the signal meter on your mobile phone.
You also see a figure for the connection speed which hovered around an indicated speed of 63Mbps during our testing and which was rather optimistic.
The Netgear XEB1004 is a neat idea, but we think other devices have an approach that make life much easier.